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Messi, Griezmann, Suarez turn on style with stunning goals in Barcelona win

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Barcelona are still in the La Liga title race. Just.

Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez combined to score stunning goals in a 4-1 win for Barcelona at high-flying Villarreal on Sunday.

Barcelona’s win means they are now four points behind Real Madrid in the La Liga title race with five games to go, as Real beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 earlier on Sunday.

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Barcelona took the lead as Messi crossed for Griezmann and he didn’t convert his clever flick but Pau Torres put the ball into this own net.

Villarreal then equalized as Samuel Chukwueze launched a counter which Gerardo Moreno finished off after Santo Cazorla’s shot was saved.

Then Barcelona kicked on.

Suarez made it 2-1 with a stunner as Messi set him up and then Griezmann turned on the magic as Messi grabbed another assist.

Another Barcelona attack saw Suarez find Messi on the edge of the box and the Barcelona legend set up Griezmann with a delicious back heel flick.

The French striker, who was criticized by his manager Quique Setien in recent weeks, then clipped home a majestic chip to put Barcelona 3-1 up at El Madrigal.

Ansu Fati scored late on to seal the win as Messi hit the crossbar and scored another which was chalked off via VAR, as Barcelona kept the pressure on Real Madrid ahead of the final weeks of the La Liga season.

Barca aren’t giving up their La Liga title without a fight and they looked in superb form ahead of the Champions League resumption in August.

Messi, Barcelona back with a bang

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It was a big day for Catalonia, as Barcelona took its next step toward another La Liga title and Espanyol crept closer to safety.

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Barca opened up a five-point lead on Real Madrid with a win at Mallorca before the second-place side tangles with Eibar on Sunday.

Mallorca 0-4 Barcelona

Lionel Messi scored and assisted two others while Jordi Alba had a goal and an assist as Barcelona cruised past Mallorca at the Son Moix.

Barca moves onto 61 points, while Mallorca’s 25 remain a point back of safety.

It didn’t take long for Barca to get going, with Alba spotting Arturo Vidal for a second-minute opener.

Mallorca manufactured some shots, but Barcelona expanded its lead to 2-0 when Messi headed a loose ball to Martin Braithwaite before halftime.

The assists were Messi’s 17th and 18th, the goal his 25th in 32 matches across all competitions.

Celta Vigo 0-1 Villarreal

Longtime Villarreal midfielder Manu Trigueros scored a somewhat rare goal in second half stoppage to move Villarreal into eighth place, four points out of the top six.

Trigueros’ 24th career goal came in his 316th appearance for El Submarino Amarillo.

Celta remains just one point above the bottom three and three points clear of 20th place in a shocking season. The club’s been in La Liga since 2013 and finished top half in three-straight seasons between 2013-14 and 2015-16.

Espanyol 2-0 Alaves

Fernando Pacheco’s 19th-minute handball saw him sent off for the visitors, and Espanyol scored in first half stoppage and just after the break to get a huge three points.

Espanyol remains 20th with 23 points but is just three points from safety. They needed the win with a tough run of fixtures ahead to close out the season.

Alaves has 32 points, seven points clear of the bottom three with 10 matches to play.

Leganes 1-2 Real Valladolid

Goals from Enes Unal and Ruben Alcaraz early in each half moved Valladolid seven points from the bottom three.

Oscar Rodriguez struck late to give the hosts some hope, but it wasn’t met by another goal and Leganes remains 19th.

Report: Liverpool made $38M January bid for Chukwueze

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Villarreal turned down a Liverpool bid for phenom Samuel Chukwueze during last month’s transfer window, according to a report.

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France Football says that Liverpool bid $38 million for Chukwueze in January, a figure just under half of his reported $71 million release clause.

Chukwueze, 20, features as a right wing but can play across the front three. He is a member of the Golden Boy Award short list.

The report mentions that Liverpool insured their left wing with Takumi Minamino and has center forward depth with Divock Origi, but wanted Chukwueze as insurance for Mohamed Salah.

Chukwueze has four goals and four assists in 26 matches this season, averaging 1.5 shots, 1.2 key passes, and 1.8 successful dribbles per La Liga outing.

The Nigerian international has 12 caps, his two goals coming across his last seven appearances for the Super Eagles.

Chelsea also had rumored interested in Chukwueze.

Second-tier Mirandes into Copa semis after ousting Villarreal

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MADRID — Small second-division club Mirandes pulled off another upset in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, eliminating Villarreal 4-2 to reach the competition’s semifinals for the second time.

[ MORE: PL expected to realign transfer window to rest of Europe ]

The club from Miranda de Ebro, a city of about 35,000 people in northern Spain, had stunned two other first-division clubs in previous rounds – five-time champion Sevilla in the last 16 and Celta Vigo in the round of 32.

“Hi Spain, hi world,” the club posted on Twitter. “We keep making history.”

Players stayed on the field for several minutes after the match to celebrate and chant with the fans. The stadium’s announcer had asked the crowd not to invade the field after the final whistle.

Mirandes played in the Copa semifinals in 2011-12, losing to Athletic Bilbao. It made it to the competition’s quarterfinals in 2015-16.

The club has never played in Spain’s first division. It is in 11th place in the 22-team second-tier standings.

[ MORE: Christian Eriksen blasts Spurs for treatment, trophies ]

Villarreal, seventh in the first division, was trying to reach the Copa semifinals for the first time since 2015, when it lost to eventual champion Barcelona. It hadn’t made it to the last eight since that season.

“It is my worst defeat with Villarreal,” coach Javier Calleja said. “We came into the match with a lot of confidence. We leave very upset. We have to congratulate Mirandes for what it has been able to achieve. “

Matheus Aias opened the scoring for Mirandes in the 17th minute after getting past a defender outside the area and another inside the box. The visitors equalized less than 15 minutes later with a well-struck free kick by Javier Ontiveros.

Mirandes retook the lead with Martin Merquelanz converting a penalty awarded by video review in first-half stoppage time, and Santi Cazorla evened the match with another penalty in the 56th.

The hosts went ahead again two minutes later. Odei Onaindia, whose handball prompted the penalty for Villarreal, scored with a close-range touch after the visitors failed to clear a cross by the far post.

Antonio Sanchez sealed the victory after a breakaway in stoppage time.

“We weren’t going to come here and win the match just because we are in the first division and they are in the second,” Villarreal midfielder Vicente Iborra said. “We are upset because we wasted a great opportunity to be in the semifinals.”

Mirandes was the only lower-division club still alive entering the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

Villarreal signs Alcácer from Dortmund in record deal

Paco Alcacer
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VILLARREAL, Spain — Villarreal signed Spanish striker Paco Alcacer from Borussia Dortmund on Thursday in a deal reportedly worth 23 million euros ($25.5 million), making him the most expensive player ever bought by the club.

The fee would surpass the 20 million euros ($22 million) the Spanish team paid for striker Gerard Moreno in 2018.

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The 26-year-old Alcacer signed a contract until June 2025.

He is returning to the Spanish league after spending a season and a half with Dortmund, where he scored 26 goals in 47 matches.

Alcacer joined the German club on a transfer from Barcelona in the summer of 2018.

Alcacer previously played for Valencia and Getafe in the Spanish league. He has 12 goals in 19 appearances with Spain’s national team.

Villarreal earlier this month reached a deal with Lyon to send forward Karl Toko Ekambi to the French club on a loan until the end of the season.

Villarreal is eighth in the Spanish league standings.